A tag cloud (or weighted list in visual design) can be used as a visual depiction of content tags used on a website. Often, more frequently used tags are depicted in a larger font or otherwise emphasized, while the displayed order is generally alphabetical. Thus both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. Selecting a single tag within a tag cloud will generally lead to a collection of items that are associated with that tag.
Tag generating software is slightly different than tags as traditionally defined. As Wikipedia notes, the original Tag Cloud on the photo sharing site Flikr cleverly represented community interests. Each of the tags is a link to a page of relevant images. The larger the font, the more people there are who share the tag and, presumably, the interests.
Tag generating software, on the other hand, is a way of representing the key terms in a particular text. The larger the word the more often it occurs. Tag Clouds become a quick way to begin the analysis of a text by visually representing its most common terms. Like my example above, it need not have links at all.
The Cloud Tag was generated from my health plan’s page on “Member Rights and Responsibilities.” I think the rhetorical strategies of the text become remarkably obvious. This could be useful for writing as well as analysis.
Here‘s an interesting two-part article on Tag Clouds, by Joe Lamantia. Among other things, Lamantia argues that Clouds are not this year’s “Mullet” but a useful navigation aid likely to become more common. Who else misses the mullet?
I generated my Tag Cloud at Tag Crowd. Tag Crowd’s page also offers the .htm code. And you can try out a Cloud of your own by pasting any text into the box below and pushing the button. Your Cloud will appear below.
This version creates links that look up words in OneLook Dictionary Search. The Graph It button creates a frequency list and a bar graph. Thanks to Karen Schwalm and friends at Glendale Community College for the code.
Thanks for drawing my attention to tag clouds Ray (through the online facilitation listserv). I am currently undertaking a research project investigating the use of social software in teaching and learning – I can see many uses of tag clouds in this context.
Of course, I also can see the benefits of using it for research in the analysis phase. Excellent and well timed.
You might like to add your thoughts to our research blog and/or wiki as well. https://socialsoftware-research.wikispaces.com/
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